Thursday, August 13, 2015

John Wick (2014)

John Wick is one of Keanu's best movies (Matrix, Point Break being the others), and one of the best of 2014. On the surface, this movie has plenty of red flags for being a terrible, by-the-numbers action flick. It's the first-time directorial debut of a stuntman! Keanu's best is behind him! It's not based on a comic book!

Instead, it harkens back to the heady days of 80s action movies like Commando, Predator, Robocop, Demolition Man, Die Hard.

Why, why is John Wick so good? I think I can explain a couple of key points. 

(Minor/early-film spoilers)

#3: Rated-R.

I can't say this enough: PG-13 spoiled the action and sci-fi genres. All of the movies I mentioned above are rated-R. Most rated-R movies these days are not popcorn action. They are horror or adult themed drama. The popcorn action flicks are all PG-13, and the action and content is aimed at teens, not adults.

John Wick is the antithesis of this trend. Kingsman and Escape Plan are others.

#2: The normal life of a hitman

One thing that's very entertaining about the movie is that the life of a hitman has rules, and casualness. The Continental hotel he stays at (in the Flatiron Building), designed for hitmen and with rules for hitmen. The casual calls for body pickups and such. It adds a level of unexpected introspection into his life, and the life of a hitman.

#1 The dog.

The most important character in the film is the dog, Daisy.

First rule of filmmaking: never kill a dog. In this movie they do, in the first 10 minutes.

Why should you never kill a dog (as a moviemaker)? Dogs aren't actors playing a character. They're innocent, cute dogs. When they die, it destroys the emotions of humans watching the movie. Daisy the dog is innocent, and dies at the hands of horrible men. Furthermore, the filmmakers rub it in your face doubly so by showing that Daisy's dying move was to crawl over to be near John while he was knocked out. The tragedy depicted is unbelievably harsh.. in less than 10 minutes! How does it recover?

And yet the movie not only recovers, but excels. The rest of the movie is revenge. For Daisy The Dog (well, and the wife who gave John the dog). So not only do you want John to live and get the bad guys, but you want him to get total revenge.

One additional note on this. Every character in the movie except for the dog-killer is sympathetic to John and in disbelief that someone would kill John Wick's dog -- even if they themselves are trying to kill him in order to get money. It's pretty twisted, and yet very human, and just makes the movie that much more interesting and entertaining.

JSS RATING: Good, Bad movie. They were making a B-movie, not Citizen Kane, and it was a good movie.